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Work Editorial’s Theo Mercado: A Running Start



As part of a series of interviews celebrating 15 years of the iconic edit house Work Editorial, we speak to those who know the company best. Here, editor Theo Mercado reflects on the company’s ethos, cutting her teeth as a runner, and why sitting across from Beyoncé didn’t phase her…

Work Editorial’s Theo Mercado: A Running Start

The world was a different place in 2006. It was the year Facebook first publicly launched, Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ dominated the singles charts, and audiences were flocking to theatres to witness Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale. 

It was also the year that Work Editorial, the iconic edit company based initially in London, was born. A collaborative effort between EP Jane Dilworth and three of the UK’s top editors Bill Smedley, Neil Smith and Rich Orrick, it didn’t take long for the company to make the move overseas with offices in LA and New York. In the intervening years, Work has habitually set the gold standard for creative editing, sweeping up awards in the process. 

In this series of interviews, we’ll be celebrating 15 years of Work Editorial by chatting with the people who know the company best. Those who have climbed the ladder through dedication and great work have found a natural home at Work, with the shared experience of being a runner underpinning a company culture like no other.

In this first interview, we speak with Theo Mercado from the company’s New York office. Here, Theo reflects on the most unforgettable moments of her career so far, the ethos and culture that makes Work what it is, and why she’ll never be as starstruck as she was in her early days with the company… 

LBB> First of all, what’s your story? What did you do before editing, and how did you find your way into this career? 

Theo> I was born and raised in New York City. Since there wasn’t a high school football team to rally behind, my friends and I would spend our free time amusing ourselves in my basement with a Sony Handicam. It was there, learning how to do a cross fade in iMovie (I needed to get the transition to our MTV: Cribs intro just right) that I realized how exciting editing was. Armed with this knowledge, I applied to NYU Tisch, and luckily only had to move eight blocks downtown to have one of the most impactful experiences of my life. After college, I applied to be a runner and began working toward becoming an editor.  

LBB> Can you describe your experience of being a runner? What did an average day look like? 

Theo> I’m not sure there is an average day as a runner, which I think is the beauty of the job. One day I could be spending the whole day in the office, preparing meals, balancing petty cash, making coffee, another day I could be on a quest to deliver a top secret drive to an undisclosed location using only a handwritten map and my navigational prowess (which, as a native New Yorker, is shockingly terrible). Every day may have been different, but what remained constant were the friendships I formed and still hold to this day. That will always be my favorite part of that job. 

LBB> Was there a specific moment during your time working as a runner when it struck you that this was going to be the career path you wanted to pursue? 

Theo> Yeah, I actually remember it vividly. It was the day when my childhood hero Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order SVU’s Olivia Benson) walked into the office to work on a pro bono project, and stretched her hand out to shake mine. I immediately ran to the bathroom crying, and she walked in after me to make sure I was okay. After a day spent thinking of any excuse to enter her edit suite, I found her waiting by the runner’s desk to give me a big hug and tell me I had done a great job. 

It was then (standing there, frozen and speechless) that I realized becoming an editor would grant me full access to that room, to collaborate with incredibly talented people in an intimate setting. How could you not want that job?

LBB> And is that the only time you’ve been starstruck on the job? 

Theo> It was definitely the only time I’ve ever had that sort of (embarrassing) reaction to seeing someone famous. Mariska Hargitay is such a force of my childhood, so nothing else will ever quite be on that level. I mean, years ago I was once seated directly next to Beyoncé and managed to keep my cool.

LBB> Sorry?! How did you end up sitting next to from Beyoncé?

Theo> My family was sitting outside at an Italian restaurant when suddenly a giant SUV pulled up, and what was clearly a security detail got out. We watched Beyoncé and Jay Z be ushered into the restaurant, and they ended up seated directly next to us. What was supposed to be a very low-key dinner turned into something unforgettable.

LBB> Rhythm and a sense of musicality seem to be intrinsic to good editing – how do you think about the rhythm side of editing, how do you feel out the beats of a scene or a spot?

Theo> When I first started editing, I thought I was a mini Schoonmaker, cutting my DV footage to the beat of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, or something like that. It’s one of the most fun and eye-catching ways to edit, and I still love doing it. These days I find it helpful, especially when cutting  a music video or even a dialogue-heavy piece, to turn off the sound altogether and just watch  the flow of the edit. Rhythm is as much about style as it is emotion.  

LBB> Just in case there are any runners reading this now - what would be your advice for  them? 

Theo> Whenever you have a free moment, sit in a room with an editor. Watch them work and ask as many questions as you can. Editors may not love talking about themselves, but they do love talking about their process. Also, don’t mess up their coffee order.

LBB> What makes Work Editorial unique? How would you describe the company’s philosophy? 

Theo> One of the main reasons I was drawn to Work (on top of the excess of talent) is the way the company treats every employee as a member of the family. Even the way the office is designed embodies how the company is run: no unnecessary walls, with everything out in the open, as transparent and collaborative as possible. Work is ultimately about forming and holding onto meaningful relationships. 

LBB> Do you remember your first job with Work? 

Theo> Ha, yeah I absolutely do. I have a feeling it was a test to see just how prepared I was for the job, one of those where you’re up late, coming in on weekends, with no end in sight. I also remember it all happening right in the midst of an insane snowstorm, so it all contributed to this frenetic, exciting feeling. 

LBB> What do you think you would be doing right now had you never discovered editing, or if being a runner had not worked out? 

Theo> It’s tempting to say something cool here, like surfing on the Gulf of Mexico or becoming a professional bull rider, but if I wasn’t an editor, I would still want to be as entrenched in the film industry as possible. So with that being said, I’d still probably be somewhere on the production side. I’m in constant awe of female DPs, and all women hustling in a male-dominated field. But yeah, I’ll stick with bull rider.

LBB> Fifteen years is a long time to be in the business, given how quickly and dramatically the industry can change. If you had to guess, what do you think the industry will look like in the next 15 years? 

Theo> Hmm, let me think about that. Honestly, the industry has made some progress, but I really want to see companies’ rosters become more diverse. It’s exciting to think what that might look like 15 years down the line.

Beyond that, I think the past 12 months have been critical in deciding the future of the workplace, and we’ll see that play out across the industry over the next few years. It’s been hard at times without the office as your centralized hub for everything, but equally I think everyone has discovered some kind of advantage to working from home. I hope in the near future we’ll be able to strike a balance between the two.

LBB> Finally, if you could describe Work Editorial in three words, what would they be? 

Theo> Talented, nurturing, and trusting.

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WORK USA, Tue, 16 Mar 2021 16:46:52 GMT